Chapter 103 – An Impulsive Man

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“I behaved shamefully and I am truly and deeply sorry for my actions,” the Second Prince of Orestania declared while bowing deeply toward me on his knee from the other side of the prison bars. It was the male counterpart to the deep curtsey.

I’m glad that the women watching this along with me were present at the time, and that these guards had been outside trying to stop him, because if someone not directly a witness to the incident were to see this, it would be hideously embarrassing.

I could write the lines directly from the light novels I had read. This arrogant woman actually forced our beloved prince to bow down to her! or something to that effect. I wondered if I was going to hear them soon. Light novel villainesses get seriously bad press.

Genette had already led me back into the cell and dressed me in the other tea gown she brought to the Tower with her. I had stood and approached the bars when Rod reentered the room, so I was already in position for this. I dipped into my curtsey.

I wanted to drop into a deep curtsey so he would stop being lower than me, but etiquette in this case wouldn’t let me. I had to let him lower himself below me for the apology.

“Please raise your head, Your Highness. I accept your apology and I have already forgotten the incident.”

Yeah, I wasn’t going to forget the incident any time soon. But I could not stand having him prolong this bow any longer.

He rose after I did, then declared, “I’ve sent word to Father. I’m not standing for this.”

“I am grateful, Your Highness, but I should note that your elder brother has already done the same.”

“That cold fish probably sent a politely worded report, and a politely worded formal protest. I told Father how angry I am!”

I remembered the thunder and lightning in Ged’s eyes and suspected Rod was underestimating his brother’s emotions a bit. But I smiled and repeated, “I am grateful, Your Highness.”

“Do you have any guess what your mother might do about this?”

While worrying about what kind of rumors Rod might accidentally start through the ears of those listening to our conversation, I told him, “Of course, she will abide by whatever His Majesty decides. She’s his loyal vassal, Your Highness.”

Speaking of rumors, as long as he was here, maybe I could ask him about Mireia… I immediately vetoed that idea due to the same ears. Amelia and company had been adamant that Rod tell me, and I’d had no opportunity except for during my dance with him, when I didn’t want to kill his mood, but I couldn’t ask here, in front of these witnesses, either.

He scowled and shook his head. “I don’t mean Lady Sasara, Ti. I mean your birth mother. She’s surely going to find out about this.”

Well, that settled the question of how much Rod knew about Mother. It looked like, unlike Ged, he didn’t know she and Deharè were the same person.

Something dawned on me at that moment. How are they going to explain it when my little sister comes out a half-fairy? They can probably hide it from the public and the Council, but surely her siblings are going to find out.

I had to shelve that issue for another time, too. There was a question on the table.

“I couldn’t say, but I’m sure Lady Niaela has considered the possibility. She must believe it will be okay.”

He had advanced to the bars, and he now reached through them to put his hands on my shoulders.

“Why did you cooperate with her?” he demanded. “Why did Ged agree to this?”

I blinked. “What did you expect us to do? Fight Lady Niaela?”

The only peaceful way out was to let her arrest me, you know?

“Your Highness, I really must insist that you step away from the bars,” one of the guards. “For your safety, remain behind the line on the floor…”

“Your line is of no concern to me!” Rod snarled, looking over his shoulder. I was a little shocked at the sudden anger flaring in his eyes. “And I will thank you to never again imply that she’s some sort of criminal!”

Suppressing a snort, I noted gently, “Your Highness, this is a jail cell, you know.”

He scowled at me. “I mean it, Ti. I will not stand for this. If they don’t let you out of here, I will take you out of here myself!”

With as calming a tone as I could project, I requested, “Your Highness, please don’t do anything rash.”

Personality-wise, Ged and Rod match their shoulders. Slender Ged is the sports car, broad-shouldered Rod is the bulldozer. Or Ged is the fencer and Rod is the boxer. My second foster brother wears his heart on his sleeve. He will charge in without thinking, every time.

It’s probably a good thing that Ged is the heir-apparent.

“Your Highness,” the guard said, “You shouldn’t reach through the bars.”

“I said…!” Rod began, looking over his shoulder again, but I clapped my hands on top of his as they sat on my shoulders.

“Rod!”

He cut off and looked back to me. I stared him in the eyes.

“Calm down, Rod. Please,” I told him gently. “Wait for our parents to sort things out properly.”

He pressed his lips together, then nodded. But when I lifted my hands from his, he grabbed them and held on. While staring me in the eye, he raised his voice.

“Lady Chiara!”

“Y… yes, Your Highness?” the confused knight responded. I was myself also blinking in confusion at his hands as they held mine.

“Have those two ladies step over here,” he ordered, suddenly sounding like a prince rather than a blustering teenager.

I wrinkled my brow and gave him a questioning shake of the head, but he didn’t explain anything. The three women, equally mystified, approached and stood nearby.

Still staring me in the face, he switched my left hand from his right to his left and sank back down to his knee. The women’s eyes and mine grew wide as we heard him begin reciting.

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“I,  Roderick Secundus, prince of the House of Atius and son of His Majesty, Owen the Second, King of Orestania, have sent to you word of my intention to take you as my bride. I have made my offerings at three temples to petition the Divine Trinity to witness my resolve. Your splendor and grace have robbed my eyes and stolen my devotion, so I beg you now, before these three witnesses, please grant me your hand as my wife. My Princess, I humbly beseech you, spread your arms for me and open unto me your heart.”

Sexual innuendo muuuuch???

Wait, wait, wait, what is he saying??

My stuck brain unfroze and confirmed, these were definitely his lines in the betrothal vows.

Lady Chiara grew a bemused quirk of a smile on her lips. The others in the room kept staring, round-eyed. The guards were outright gawking in astonishment.

“Rod, we’re supposed to do this at the engagement announcement,” I answered in a weak voice.

“We can repeat it for them there and wherever else they want, however many times they want. But I want you to say it now.”

“Rod… why?” Did he find out about Ged asking me and get anxious?

But he had a different motive. “I want it officially over and done before those idiots in the Privy Council start making noise, Ti! Parna is probably moving already! Until we do this, he can still get them to withdraw their approval, but if we’ve already made the vows before three witnesses, it’s official! They would have to persuade Father to bring it to the High Court to dissolve!”

I opened and closed my mouth twice without speaking.

“Please, Ti!” His eyes were becoming fierce. Sort of eyes begging me with force.

Chiara’s eyes brightened slightly and she gave a barely perceptible ‘go ahead!’ nod. Tiana’s heart became too weak to the foster brother who kept urging me silently as well. I found myself taking hold of my skirt.

Wait, Tiana, what are you doing?

I stepped back slightly and began settling into the deep curtsey. I cleared my throat, and found my voice somehow.

“I, Tiana of the High Forest, First Daughter of the House of Pendor and daughter of the Lady Sasara, Duchess Pendor, humbly raise my hand in response to your benevolent request.”

What are you doing, Tiana??

“My ears have received your proposal of marriage with deepest affection. With a warm heart, I have pondered it, and in earnest spirit I now reply to you, to offer you my acceptance.”

Tiana, what the hell are you doing??!

My throat had dried out, but I managed the rest without stumbling.

“Your Highness, let us join our journeys together.”

“Tiana, before these witnesses I declare that you are my only betrothed bride.”

“Roderick, before these witnesses I declare that you are my only betrothed groom,” I responded.

His lips spread in a broad, proud smile. He stood while pulling me to my feet, causing me to tumble right into the bars. Fortunately, it was a light enough pull that I only fell into them gently and I was able to turn my head in time. Only my hair and the cloth of my dress contacted them. They were iron, after all. Mustn’t let my skin touch them.

His arms were around me, hugging me. He whispered into my ear.

“Thank you, Tiana.”

“Your Highness…” the guard tried again.

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He growled with a warning tone over his shoulder, “Shut it!”

He still had his arms around me. I was getting a little worried, because my hair and my dress were not sufficient insulation for the metal. Would the guards think I did it on purpose if I destroyed the bars?

“Rod, you know they can still order me stripped of nobility,” I noted. “My father was disgraced and I’m only Mother’s fosterling. They can invalidate the engagement that way.”

It wasn’t just a custom for royalty to only marry nobility or other royalty, it was ancient law. For Atians, it was actually part of the religion. Marriages are only allowed to bridge one social class. Slave can marry commoner but not noble. Commoner can marry noble but not royalty. If I were reduced to a commoner before a temple priest consecrated the marriage, I would become no more than Rod’s concubine.

He simply chuckled. “They can strip you of nobility, but they can’t strip you of royalty.”

Wait, wait, wait. He does know? Was I the only one who didn’t know?

I now understood, belatedly, why he had switched the line from ‘My Lady’ to ‘My Princess’ in the ceremony. At the time I thought it was because marrying a prince would make me a princess anyway.

“Your Highness!” the guard protested again. Rod scowled and turned toward him as he let me go. I noticed a bit of deformation to the bars in front of me. Sort of a faint imprint of a girl pressed up against them.

“You!…” he snapped, raising his finger.

He controlled himself, waggled the finger after a short pause, with his lips pressed together, then finished, “… had better be thankful that I’m a patient man!”

- my thoughts:

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Rod, she told you not to do anything rash. Weren't you listening?

I am absolutely certain there are readers screaming at Tiana (or me) right now. I hope you will stick with her, anyway.

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